Sunday 6 July 2014

HMS Nelson, Operation Avalanche.

Early September was spent planning the next step in the move on Europe in ‘Operation Avalanche’, the Salerno Landings, a main aim of which was to secure the port of Naples for the Allies use.

Operation Avalanche, landings at Salerno.

7-Sep-43          Neslon leaves Malta at 1530 and by 2100 25 warships assemble to protect the invasion fleet. It was announced that Italy had surrendered but the official surrender had taken place on 3rd September.
9-Sep-43          Operation Avalanche starts with landing by British Commandos and US Rangers on the northern beaches. They were to prevent German reinforcement from Naples by holding the mountain passes. They were largely unopposed. The fleet off shore had to suffer heavy air attack but there was no damage done to any vessel.

Loading 16” shell HMS Nelson. Note rope round base of shell to protect brass casing. Landed on the bogey for moving to the magazines

There was to be no initial bombardment to try to preserve the element of surprise. This was wasted as the Germans had fully anticipated that the landings in the toe of Italy by Montgomery’s 8th Army were not the main battle. The British landings to the North were met with determined opposition and at the end of the day the bridgehead was not very deep. To the south the American first wave was met by loud speakers announcing ‘Come on in, and give up. We have you covered’. It was a Texan regiment’s first combat and with the announcement that Italy had surrendered they were expecting an easy landing, however they were badly mauled and did not advance. Naval bombardments were needed to assist both the American and British troops and by the end of the first day the bridgehead was about 7 miles deep. Nelson and the fleet were once again under very heavy air attack and Nelson got all her guns to bear, including fused HE shells from the 16” guns. The 4.7” AA guns fired 300 rounds each.
13-Sep-43        With the Allies failure to enlarge the beachhead and to effectively link up the British and American forces either side of the Sele River the Germans were able to launch an attack. Throughout the day the Germans advanced and made it to only a couple of miles from the beach when heavy naval gunfire was able to halt the counter offensive.
14-Sep-43        By the end of the day it was obvious that the German offensive had been halted and as Montgomery’s 8th Army were now in contact with the Germans to the south their withdrawal started. Nelson was no longer needed and as the vessels offshore were suffering very heavy air attack she was withdrawn back to Malta.
15-Sep-43        Arrive back in Malta.
29-Sep-43        The official signing of the Italian Armistice took place in the Admiral’s Cabin aboard HMS Nelson.
Lord Gort, Governor of Malta, Air Chief Marshal Tedder, Marshal Badoglio, Lt. Gen Sir Noel Mason- MacFarlane, Governor of Gibraltar, General Eisenhower, General Alexander at the signing of the Italian Armistice aboard HMS Nelson in Malta on 29th September 1943.

13-Oct-43        Admiral Willis strikes his flag and Rear Admiral A.W. La Bisset moves his flag from Rodney to Nelson.
18-Oct-43        Reassessments are made and as there is no longer a threat from the Italian and Vichy French Fleets it is felt that there is no longer a requirement for a  Flag Officer to be appointed to Force H and Rear Admiral Bisset strikes his flag and Force H is disbanded.
28-Oct-43        Nelson sails from Malta in company with Rodney and destroyer Offa, bound for Scapa Flow.
1-Nov-43         Nelson leaves Gibraltar along with the same vessels.
4-Nov-43         The group arrive in Scapa and rejoin the Home Fleet.
6-Nov-43         Nelson arrives in Rosyth for a short refit. Only essential work can be carried out as she has to be ready for sea quickly to counter the threat of the Scharnhorst and Tirpitz breaking out.

8-Nov-43         Dad leaves HMS Nelson to start Officer Training.

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